Humanities Magazine Articles

Trail of Tears, a painting along the highway in Golconda, Illinois

June 28, 2021

History may be written by the winners, but only as a first draft—a feel-good, simplistic, triumphalist view of the past. What about the history that endures? That’s all about asking tough questions, doing hard digging, and acknowledging stubborn complexities.

September 26, 2020


Stoney Portis

On October 3, 2009, more than 300 Taliban fighters overran Combat Outpost Keating, the outpost held by my reconnaissance troop of seventy-six cavalry scouts. During the eighteen-hour battle, the Taliban killed eight soldiers, wounded nineteen more, and burned our base to the ground. Describing my unit’s mission, President Obama asserted we had to “defend the indefensible.” This was the longest day of my life, but it only prefaced a struggle that has lasted for years.

Duke MFA student Ayan Felix

July 21, 2020


Scott Huler

AS COURTNEY LIU ’13 walks away from the Ark on a cool and cloudy fall day, she considers the class in which she has just participated. She had been asked to sink into the floor of the Ark, the smooth gray floor on which over the years thousands of the best dancers in the world had moved. To sink even through that floor, into the earth beneath.

The Common Wind

February 26, 2020


David Menconi

Even when published in book form, academic dissertations rarely get much attention. But “The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution,” which earned Julius S. Scott Ph.D. ’86 his doctorate, is the rare exception. After its completion in 1987, “The Common Wind” attracted interest from a few publishers. But Scott was not prepared to undertake the revisions that publishers and he himself felt were necessary.

February 26, 2020

PAUL SIEFKEN ’92 was terrified of the big shoes he would have to fill. Not the size nine, dusty blue sneakers that Mister Rogers always put on as he sang “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Something even bigger than that—Fred Rogers’ legacy. It was 2012, and Siefken, director of children’s programming at PBS, had just received a job offer from Fred Rogers Productions to head its production for a time and go on to be its next president and CEO.

A graphic of numbers as in computer code

August 7, 2019

I was never supposed to teach a course on utopian and dystopian literature, especially not one in modern and contemporary American lit. I’m a nineteenth-century Americanist specializing in the classics (Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville, Stowe, Alcott)—all the stuff people hate reading in high school and then find mildly more digestible in college.

May 16, 2019

The sweet release of spring break beckons, but the day is dreary. How dreary? Perfectly dreary. The very definition of dreariness. The ideal, ultimate expression, the Platonic Form, of dreariness.

September 25, 2014


Bridget Booher

At the opening of the new Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity last year, President richard H. Brodhead acknowledged that the deeply entrenched homophobic prejudice in the U.S. also played out at Duke. “This university regrets every phase of that history,” he said.

July 18, 2014


Safa al-Saeedi

I grew up in a household where my dad has been always supportive. He always praised women for their minds and for their compassion. I never got the sense from my father that women were inferior; I never felt that I was less than my brothers. Whenever he would see an amazing woman on television, like a scholar or a scientist, he would always tell me to come and watch. My dad supported me in my travels and when I decided not to be a doctor in my career choice.

April 28, 2014

THE CATALYST: In 2000, Congress passed legislation to create the Veterans History Project. Housed in the Library of Congress, the ongoing collection includes correspondence, audio narratives, and visual materials from veterans of every American war since World War I. Several years ago, Center for Documentary Studies instructor Michelle Lanier and then-visiting professor Elaine Lawless saw an opportunity to contribute to the project at duke.

April 28, 2014


Mousa Jawasreh

Nour has fair skin and gray-blue eyes, accentuated by her ocean-colored hijab and dress. She tells us how in love she is with her husband, how he waited three years until she was old enough to marry him. She speaks of her son as the only bright spot in her life here in Jordan, the only happy moment. She details the horrors of her father-in-law’s public murder in Syria and even shows us pictures of his flowery burial on her cell phone.

Vocal fry

February 18, 2014


Scott Huler

By the time you finish reading this story you will have learned the following things: Men can hear fertility status in a woman’s voice—and they like it; a big, deep “me Tarzan” voice seems to help not just men but women succeed in politics and business; the pitch and tone of a CEO’s voice in a conference call may give you information about stock performance; women have it even tougher than you knew; and there may be evolutionary value in this whole “vocal fry” trend (think Kardashian end-of-s

President Brodhead with The New York Times’ David Brooks

September 17, 2013

Great minds, they say, think alike, and the fifty-three impressive minds that converged for the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences agreed that both fields are key to the nation’s future. Indeed, the group, co-chaired by Duke president Richard H. Brodhead, went further, releasing in June “The Heart of the Matter,” a report offering three goals and thirteen recommendations for advancing the humanities and social sciences.

Sosin scrutinizing papyri

September 17, 2013

The ancient and the modern come together in a new appointment at Duke. In July, Joshua D. Sosin Ph.D. ’00, an associate professor of classical studies and history, became the director of the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing, a new digital-humanities unit of Duke University Libraries. More impressive: Sosin is the first tenured faculty member at Duke to have a joint appointment in the library and an academic department.